Ranked among Japan's three finest landscape gardens, Kairakuen is most famous for its over three thousand plum trees. Kairakuen is located in Mito, the capital of Ibaraki Prefecture, one hour northeast of Tokyo by limited express train. The garden suffered damage from the March 2011 earthquake, but was repaired and fully reopened in February 2012.
Kairakuen was built relatively recently in 1841 by the local lord Tokugawa Nariaki. Unlike Japan's other two great landscape gardens Kenrokuen and Korakuen, Kairakuen served not only for the enjoyment of the ruling lord, but was open to the public. Kairakuen means "park to be enjoyed together".
While worth a visit throughout the year, Kairakuen is particularly popular during the plum blossom season, which usually takes place from late February through March. The garden features a forest of 3000 trees of over one hundred different plum tree varieties with white, pink and red blossoms. The Mito Plum Festival (Mito Ume Matsuri) is held annually from mid February through March (February 18 to March 31, 2017).
Besides the plum trees Kairakuen also features a bamboo grove, cedar woods and the Kobuntei, a traditional Japanese style building. Like the whole park, the Kobuntei has always been open to the public and served educational and recreational purposes. A nice view of Kairakuen and nearby Senba Lake can be enjoyed from the building's top floor.
Kairakuen is located in Mito City, 120 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. Mito is easily accessed from Tokyo (such as Shinagawa, Tokyo or Ueno Station) by the JR Joban Line. The one-way trip by limited express takes just over an hour and costs around 4000 yen, while local trains take twice as long but cost only 2270 yen.
From Mito Station, Kairakuen can be reached in a pleasant 30 minute walk along Senba Lake (a good English city map of Mito is available at the station's sightseeing information desk) or in 15 minutes by bus. During the peak of the plum festival, some trains on the Joban Line stop at the temporarily served Kairakuen Station, which stands just next to the garden.
Kairakuen Main Garden
7:00 to 18:00 (October 1 to February 19)